Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wife Rule #82: Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Nature abhors a vacuum.

So it's a little ironic that the very things that suddenly barge into our lives like steamrollers--demanding huge amounts of our time and energy and thus completely flattening lower priorities--leave such a terrible void in their wake, when they finally pass.

Which they always do.

All that remains is a faint hissing sound, produced from a hundred wistful sighs of mixed relief and regret that the busy season is, at last, over.

My wife was released today from her volunteer church position (all the positions in our church are filled by volunteers). For the last three years she was the president of our congregation's Primary organization, which handles the weekly church-related activities of our children ages 18 months through 11 years. As such, she, her two counsellors, and the secretary in her presidency deftly handled the responsibility of being in charge of a staff of over fifty adult leaders that included class teachers, nursery leaders, cub scout and eleven-year-old scout leaders, girl's activity day leaders, music leaders, and others.

In all, this combined army of volunteers herds about 200 children for two hours each Sunday, plus additional events during the week. My wife and her presidency also held weekly planning meetings; planned and attended child baptisms and the special meetings to prepare children and their parents for this most important event; planned and attended meetings to prepare the eleven-year-olds for graduation from Primary; did one-on-one interviews with each teacher; held appreciation dinners for all those serving in the primary; attended scout committee meetings, regular meetings with the bishop of our congregation, and meetings with other auxiliary leaders; planned and put on supplemental quarterly activities for all 200 children; and conducted interviews with each child as they prepared for advancement within the programs of our church.

That's a boatload of stuff to do, cutting a very wide and very clean swath through the middle of my wife's life, and to a large extent, the rest of our lives too.

So as today was the last time she stood in front of the children as their president, I wanted to take this opportunity to say to my wife: Job well done!

I know you feel a great sense of relief at the burden being lifted, but also a fair amount of trepidation to have such a huge interruption to your life's routine.

In a sense, you feel a little homeless right now.

I know it was hard to gut your binder, that precious, huge collection of information, policies, jumbled thoughts, and strategies for doing your job, looking for those necessary parts that constitute the baton being passed to the new president. You let those papers go with a little hesitation, like sending your children off into capable, but different hands than your own.

The papers you kept, those representing countless hours of thought and study and deep prayer to the Eternal Father of the children that have been in your charge, are even harder to part with. So you'll keep them around, and might even use a few again, but deep down you know this is really "goodbye" to these old friends who will be placed on a shelf to gather dust and most likely won't come off. They are precious and valuable, but also very perishable, and their shelf life is now mostly over.

You will miss those precious, regular associations with your trusted counsellors and secretary, those women who filled your home each week and brought so much joy and relief to your life. They will remain friends, but the built-in, regular times together are gone and life's new responsibilities, which will surely come, will make it a little harder to maintain the relationships as they have been. Thankfully, there is an implicit bond that will remain, for once two friends have leaned on each other and earned each other's trust, they always keep it.

And most of all, you will miss those 200 little faces, those precious souls who will from now on be frozen in time in your memories.

Ten years from now we will walk into a reception center, bewildered at the stunning bride or handsome groom that we know, standing there all giddy and wondering if she or he is ready for "real life." You will wonder the same thing, since only yesterday she had ribbons in her hair and was toting her scriptures in a bag with hearts on it; or he was chewing his tie, sitting backwards in his chair, and looking bored.

Twenty years from now you will still remember the ones that gave you headaches, as well as the ones whose purity and innocence so often brought tears to your eyes. These 200 souls, once given a place in your heart, will never really leave. They will change, but a small piece of them will remain as if in cement, ever-present in the fond reverie of your time spent in their service.

And they will remember you. Not all of them, and probably not even most of them, but fifty years from now, some old man will look back on the moments that defined his life, the moments where he learned who he really is as a child of a loving God, and he will remember a teacher, a song leader, or the testimony of his Primary president, you, who brought the fiery torch of the Spirit of God into the room where his heart lay open, ready for engraving.

He may then shed a little tear of gratitude, looking back at the glorious way his life has unfolded, with wife and children and grandchildren and sublime richness too bounteous to enumerate, a portion of which was first given to him by the selfless service of you, my faithful, loving wife.

So let's take this new time together and use it. We'll start by sitting together in Sunday School for nearly the first time in five years. But more importantly, we'll practice adjusting to change and voids and vacuums together, for more will surely come.

Your service as Primary president, while significant, is really not that much compared to the steamroller called "parenthood" that has utterly reshaped our lives and our very identities. This all-important work will surely change in time too, so let's be ready for it when it comes. When we are sitting together in an oddly quiet, freshly emptied house some day in the distant future, let's take advantage of the opportunity to be closer, to discover our next adventure together, and to remember the powerful forces of attraction that brought us together way back when the universe revolved around us--back when there was only you, and me, and gravity, and lots and lots of potential.

After all, most of the universe is empty space, a vacuum. There's no reason to abhor it; that just means there's room to grow.


Jenny and Al said...

Congrats to Brooke for getting released! I bet it is bittersweet, just like you said. But after a few weeks of freedom, it will probably be far more sweet than bitter. :)

Amy said...

Congratulations, Brooke! You know, Matt, even if she was really excited to be released, she's probably sad about it after reading your touching blog entry!